E-mail 'crucial' to future of desktop Linux

Spread of open source on the desktop could falter unless e-mail applications improve, a new study says.

E-mail will be the most significant factor governing the uptake of Linux on the desktop, according to a new study.

The Desktop Linux Client Survey 2005, released this week by the Open Source Development Labs, found that the lack of a powerful e-mail application could hinder the adoption of Linux on the desktop.

A lack of application support is also holding back Linux, according to the survey of more than 3,300 users.

The survey was conducted by the OSDL Desktop Linux Working Group in October 2005. It found that without quality e-mail applications, Linux on the desktop was not a feasible alternative for most people because e-mail is rated as the most important application regardless of platform.

The survey results send a clear message to application vendors to focus on developing a quality e-mail application for the Linux desktop.

Novell's Evolution, a groupware client for Linux, currently provides e-mail, calendar, task and contacts functionality and can connect to Microsoft Exchange, but there are few other alternatives.

Mozilla developers are addressing this issue. The Mozilla Foundation recently published an initial road map for Lightning, the project to integrate its calendar application Sunbird with its e-mail application Thunderbird. Sunbird has been available as a separate extension for Firefox and Thunderbird for a while, but there's been little integration between calendar and e-mail functionality.

The Desktop Linux Client Survey was carried out to find the key issues driving or hindering Linux adoption on the desktop.

Peripheral support and end-user training were the other most popular reasons cited for not deploying Linux on the desktop. Some people suggested that training issues could be alleviated if Linux supported more common desktop applications such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop.

The belief that Linux is mainly used as a developer tool was shattered by the survey, which cited employer demand as the top reason for adoption, closely followed by the need to keep up with competitors using Linux. The survey suggests a cultural shift has occurred among business, with many now willing to seriously consider open source.

Licensing costs and total cost of ownership were the most popular reasons given for deploying desktop Linux, while few people cited better security as a factor.

Karen Gomm of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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